Erdoğan vows to halt Turkish offensive if Kurds pull back

Erdoğan vows to halt Turkish offensive if Kurds pull back
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday he would end Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria if Kurdish forces there surrender their weapons and pull out of a planned “safe zone.”

Erdoğan warned that Ankara’s operation would not end until his conditions are met and that he is not willing to negotiate, according to Reuters. He gave the Kurdish groups until Wednesday evening to meet his demands.

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The Turkish offensive has sparked bipartisan backlash in Washington, with several lawmakers on Capitol Hill saying they’ll introduce sanctions legislation against Ankara.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE has already introduced sanctions of his own, saying in a statement Monday he is slapping sanctions on government officials in Ankara and “any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” The sanctions targeted the Turkish Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, as well as the leaders of those two agencies and the head of the Ministry of the Interior.  

The sanctions include an increase on steel tariffs from 25 percent to 50 percent and a halt in trade negotiations with Turkey. 

“Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region,” said Trump. “I have been perfectly clear with President Erdoğan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes.” 

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”

However, Trump is also taking heat from Capitol Hill, with lawmakers saying his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria removed the chief deterrent to Turkey’s operation and put Kurdish groups who fought with the U.S. against ISIS at risk. Ankara has accused Kurds in Syria of being linked to an anti-Turkish insurgency and has long sought to push them farther from the Turkey-Syria border.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-S.C.), a staunch Trump ally and defense hawk, said the decision is a “disaster in the making” that “ensures [an] ISIS comeback” and “will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.”

Critics of Trump’s sanctions said they were too little, too late, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSchumer calls on Trump to testify as part of impeachment inquiry Sunday shows — Spotlight shifts to Sondland ahead of impeachment inquiry testimony Perception won't be reality, once AI can manipulate what we see MORE (D-Calif.) saying the package "falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster." 

Turkey has shown no signs of letting up, with Syrian fighters backed by Ankara saying Tuesday they would continue their advance toward the city of Manbij, a key flashpoint west of the Euphrates River.

A Reuters cameraman also reported heavy bombing of the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain, where a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group largely made up of Kurdish fighters, reported a battle was taking place.